Hendrix unearthed: hours of unheard sessions discovered

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The Independent Culture

His explosive performances made him a hero to a generation, one of the most innovative and bankable musicians of all time. Yet by the time of his death Jimi Hendrix had left only a tiny legacy of official releases, with just three studio albums to his name.

His explosive performances made him a hero to a generation, one of the most innovative and bankable musicians of all time. Yet by the time of his death Jimi Hendrix had left only a tiny legacy of official releases, with just three studio albums to his name.

Now more than 30 years later, his estate is to put the record straight, with the release of dozens of unheard recordings. It will delight Hendrix fans and go some way to repair damage done to his reputation by years of poor-quality bootlegs.

The new material - there is enough for regular releases over the next 10 years - is understood to include several hours of film of the guitarist in concert shot by fans and entourage, plus studio out-takes and unreleased sessions recorded between 1967 and 1970.

The release of such a large number of lucrative recordings will only add to the value of an estate already estimated to be worth £200m. It is ranked as the fifth most lucrative among dead rock and pop artists, after those of Elvis Presley, John Lennon, George Harrison and Bob Marley.

But not everyone associated with Hendrix will benefit. His British bass player Noel Redding died almost penniless last year after signing away his rights to the material in the early 1970s for a one-off payment when he was short of cash. His manager Ian Grant has claimed the agreement was not valid because Redding could not have anticipated all the other ways his work could have been exploited. "The fact is that there were no CDs in those days, let alone DVDs. Back then you were told 'If you don't sign here, you won't get any money'."

The new material in the hands of Experience Hendrix, the company set up to exploit the guitarist's back catalogue, is thought to include out-takes from sessions at Olympic Studios in London and his own Electric Lady studio in New York. Hendrix's stepsister Janie, who runs the company, told The Independent on Sunday: "A lot of this material has never been seen before, or heard. A lot of video, a lot of live concerts, appearances that people didn't know existed."

The company has been criticised in the past for generating cash with decidedly un-rock'n'roll spin-offs such as official Jimi Hendrix golf balls, air fresheners, wine glasses and underwear. Hendrix's brother Leon, a guitarist based in Seattle, is dismayed by the marketing of Hendrix to date. "They [the estate] have no vision - they're just looking to make money and it cheapens Jimi's memory," said Leon, 56, who in September lost a long legal fight for a stake in the estate and Experience Hendrix.

Although there were only limited releases during the guitarist's lifetime, a number of recordings appeared over the years since his death, including recordings on which studio musicians were overdubbed on to Hendrix's tapes.

Music experts believe there will be keen interest in future releases. Music journalist Charles Shaar Murray said: "Of course there would be a market for this stuff. As with John Coltrane, it doesn't matter how many different recordings you might have of a piece, because the density of the improvisations was such that almost every performance was fresh."

But Radio 2 presenter Bob Harris was more doubtful. "One suspects if any good material exists it must have been released by now."

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